‘Welllllllllll.’

She draws out the wells.

‘What I really miss is Number Jacks. Especially the pink three. Yeah,’ she sighs, ‘Number Jacks is what I really miss mummy and Mister Maker. You know? Mister Maker. I miss them.’ She sighs again.

I sigh too. Not for Mister Maker, though I do quite like Mister Maker (not as much as Andy), but because I’ve started missing something too. So I can empathise. Which is something I’ve been trying to do lately because it’s like Buddhist and that’s what I am trying to be (which is really difficult when you live in a land filled with mosquitoes).

The thing that I am missing is something that I calculate I haven’t seen, touched, tasted or smelt in five weeks, three days and six hours. I’m not sure of the minutes or seconds because I’m not quite that much of an alcoholic.

Yes. Lula might miss Mister Maker and Number Jacks but I doubt she’d give her life savings for an episode, whereas I might be tempted to do just that for a condensation lit glass of Chablis.

The craving hit me yesterday only, sitting in a windowless kitchen surrounded by chillies, in front of a gas burner, with a child like a hot water bottle wriggling on my lap on the hottest day Kerala has had in many, many years. Lukewarm beer just wouldn’t cut it. I needed wine and I needed it now.

Which was a bitch because we’re in Kerala. India. Kerala the state so dry it’s practically Saharan. India. The country not renowned for its wines. You want alcohol? Then you queue with the rest of the alcoholics outside the one liquor shop in town, wait your turn and hand over your 25 ruppees for some hooch.

Actually I did think about doing that. Then I heard about how in the mornings people tap the palm trees for this honey type liquid which they ferment during the day and then by evening time it’s ready for drinking. I scanned the back garden for palm trees. Wondered whether my Venus razor might be able to tap one.

I am that desperate. I freely admit it.

But tonight we got wine. An Indian wine. A sauvignon blanc from Karnataka. And that first sweet gulp was like …I’m not going to sully it by describing it as nectar or ambrosia. I’m just going to say that it was like dying and going to heaven. Except better.

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